No. 2 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) battled its way back from a double-digit lead in a game that saw Urban Meyer outcoached by Jim Harbaugh for much of the afternoon, and came away with a wild victory in double overtime that will be remembered for years to come. Ohio State’s double-overtime victory over No. 3 Michigan (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) moved Ohio State one step closer to an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game next weekend, but the Buckeyes no longer control the fate of the division. Instead, the hopes of a Big Ten East Division crown rest in Happy Valley, where Penn State is taking on Michigan State.
Curtis Samuel ripped off a 15-yard walk-off touchdown run after Ohio State managed to survive by the slimmest of distances on a fourth down play. JT Barrett took the ball and ran for a hard-fought first down on a fourth and one play, down 27-23. Forward progress would come into play to help the Buckeyes stay alive, giving Samuel a chance to celebrate a wild win. And wild it most certainly was.
Barrett took the ball up the middle for a touchdown run on Ohio State’s first possession of overtime, but it was Michigan that would pull out the fourth down dramatics with the game on the line at the end of the first overtime. On fourth and goal, Wilton Speight connected with Amara Darboh in the back of the end zone to keep things going, with a successful PAT to tie the game and force a second overtime. The Wolverines struck first in the second overtime with a 37-yard field goal by Kenny Allen, which set up the situation for all the marbles and bragging rights for a year for the Buckeyes.
Special teams was a disaster for the Buckeyes all afternoon. Tyler Durbin missed two field goals, including a supposed chip shot in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 17-17. It missed wide left, just as a field goal try in the first half sailed on the opening offensive series for Ohio State. Punter Cameron Johnston was stopped well shy of a first down on a bizarre fourth-and-seven fake punt attempt from the Ohio state 19-yard line. Michigan’s offense took advantage of the short field position with a Khalid Hill touchdown pass from Wilton Speight five plays later, building a 10-point advantage (17-7) early in the third quarter.
Barrett ended the day with 124 passing yards and a game-high 125 rushing yards. Michigan was limited to 91 rushing yards as a team. Ohio State had just 81 yards of offense in the first half but ended the game with 330-310 advantage in total offense. For Michigan, turnovers were the difference, with three turnovers leading to 14 points, including a first half pick-six.
Special teams also cost Ohio State at the end of the first half. After Malik Hooker picked off a pass by Speight and returned it a short distance for Ohio State’s first score of the game, Jabrill Peppers returned the ensuing kick to the Michigan 45-yard line, giving the Wolverines great starting field position late in the first half to answer. They did just that with a well-run touchdown drive to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 10-7 halftime lead.
With the win, Ohio State now must wait to see how Penn State does against Michigan State this afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, then the Nittany Lions will play for the Big Ten Championship thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ohio State. That will conclude Ohio State’s regular season at 11-1, but the Buckeyes may still be in an excellent position to secure a College Football Playoff berth after entering this weekend ranked second behind Alabama. It is unlikely Ohio State will fall in the rankings and should feel good about their odds of being chosen for the playoffs even as a non-division champion. It would be the first time a non-division (and non-conference) champion would reach the College Football Playoff in its third year of operation.
Michigan should still be an attractive option in the New Years Six bowl line-up, perhaps for the Rose Bowl, but that may also depend on what happens with Penn State. Whatever happens, the Wolverines will be a very formidable foe for whomever they face in the bowl season. And who knows, maybe crazy things happen and Michigan sneaks right back into the playoff picture?